Written by Storm Robbins
Having a disability is tough enough, but then imagine trying to look after a toddler as well.
In this blog Iwant to share with you some of the challenges that my mum and I have to contend with when looking after a my nephew toddler.
Time Management. The first issue is time management – my mum and I always have to make sure our schedules are free when my sister asks us to look after the toddler. While this is good for the mum (my sister) to give her a break, it puts stress on us family members to get things done early for us to postpone our other activities to another time. For example say if I had a doctor’s appointment today and knew the toddler was coming, chances are I would have to reschedule my appointment because the toddler’s needs always come first and I will come second. Another time management issue relates to going out. When we know that the toddler is in our care, mum and I would have to take my nephew around the shops or when going out to a restaurant because we need to make sure at the toddler is happy and had his needs taken care of. Or if I or mum had to go out, we would have to plan on when we go as there might be issues with the toddlers schedule as well. This can be very time consuming and very frustrating.
Skills management. Some of the challenges that my family face when we look after a toddler are the required skill sets to look after my nephew. For example I need to have patience when looking after him. I would have to figure out he needs because he cannot tell me what he wants. I can tell what his cry means but it isn’t one hundred percent accurate all the time! Other things I had to do are rearranging the furniture so that the toddler doesn’t hurt himself. Together with my mum, I have to always plan ahead when he is coming over and to ensure I make it as safe as possible for him around the house. So figuring things out in relation to planning ahead is another required skill. For example I need to move chairs around, and imagine me with cerebral palsy with weak legs doing this, as well as moving any glass furniture that we have. It’s a very time consuming exercise. I think one of the most frustrating things about my cerebral palsy is that I cannot do the simple toddler chores that family members do every day like example changing a toddler’s diaper, putting his milk in a bottle or help him to reach things.
Budgeting. Budgeting for my nephew toddler’s needs can be very hard work. For example when mum and I go shopping for toddler food, we have to include the toddler food into our food budget for the week and this causes more pressure on house bills and other staple needs. There will be times where mum and I want something to eat but can’t afford it because we know that we have to get the toddler food first and that would put a strain on our food and nutrition habits. One example is choosing whether to purchase milk on budget, or the pricey milk to ensure the toddler gets the best nourishment possible.
Having a disability. Looking after a toddler as a person with cerebral palsy is no easy task for me because when these toddlers get older they get quicker and I can’t catch them easily. My nephew doesn’t really know how to connect with me because I think he does not understand what disability is or whether he realises I have one. It’s just very frustrating because you see the toddler doing the wrong thing but you can’t get there in time to stop what he is doing and you have to call on another adult to stop the bad situation from going any further – usually that’s my mum who is the other adult in the house. Sometimes before the adult even comes around to solve the issue it’s already too late because the toddler is already hurt and it frustrates me because I can’t help the toddler out in a time of need. If my nephew for example wakes up and I’m the only one there to help him I start to panic because I don’t know how to deal with the situation. I am afraid that he falls off the bed or if he wanted some milk I cannot give it to him straight away.
So how do I make the best of the situation? To ensure toddler safety I just need to watch the toddler for most of the time. This means I need to keep him occupied such as playing, reading books to him or get him to play with toys and just have fun talking to him. I realise that because I can’t really move much while looking after him, he needs to be in a playpen. In this way, either myself or mum can move around the house when we need to do something else, and the other can swap looking after the toddler. This is also our strategy try to avoid any hazards –anything electrical or anything that could potentially hurt him if he was a able to touch them.
I guess you might think my experience is ordinary, but I am a first time uncle and everything is new to me. And with my disability, I may need more support to be able to do my job looking after my nephew as well as I could.